Review of “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

Continuing my sociological research tour of YA romances (ha ha, sounds way better that way, right?), this particular one was very exciting in that it added THREE entries to my hair tuck database – an all-time record! It was also good for other reasons.


Pushing the Limits is the story of two formerly “normal” teens, seniors in high school, who suffered traumatic losses and are now in therapy. The therapist brings them together by assigning Echo to tutor Noah, and Noah and Echo discover they can’t resist each other. But can their feelings overcome their pasts, and the pressures from their schoolmates? We find out through alternating chapters presenting each of their points of view.

Discussion: There’s some very entertaining dialogue in this book (even besides the ear tucks, of course.) At one point, Echo runs outside without a coat, and Noah runs after her:

“‘A cold wind swept across the patio, causing me to shiver. Noah shrugged off his black leather jacket and tossed it around my shoulders. ‘How are you going to tutor me if you get fucking pneumonia?’

I cocked an eyebrow. What an odd combination of romantic gesture and horribly crude wording.”

There’s more to this story than romance, of course. And in fact, the author does quite a good job with exploring the effects of loss, and hurt, and psychic pain, like in this passage:

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see … No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”

As for the bad boy aspects, one thing I have noticed about these sorts of romances is that generally, the so-called “bad boy” usually is just misunderstood – yes, he’s hot-looking in a way that looks like danger, and he may have even gotten into trouble before (usually while he was actually trying to be noble), but really, he has a heart of gold and is a good, respectful guy. Frankly, I like that take on the bad boy – it’s having your cake and eating it too.

And there’s another aspect of the bad-boy romance this book plays up, which is the strong-guy-finding-out-he-can’t-live-without-the girl trope. Noah thinks appealing thoughts that tend to prompt swoony reactions:

“We’d read about sirens in English this fall; Greek mythology bullshit about women so beautiful, their voices so enchanting, that men did anything for them. Turned out that mythology crap was real because every time I saw her, I lost my mind.”

“I wrapped my fingers around her fragile hand. Touching Echo felt like home.”

“Echo was becoming essential, like air.”

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I’m not sure. This idea of unconditional worship of a woman by a man doesn’t seem realistic, but then, maybe I’m just jaded.

Evaluation: I enjoyed this teen romance. It has a good back story, and nobody does anything too objectionable. Well, except for some of the adults. Sub-topics include an important and well-treated theme of what constitutes a family.

Rating: 3.75/5

Published by Harlequin Teen, 2012

Note to Parents: There is “bad” language, but no sex. The book offers a positive perspective on respecting girls’ right to choose.


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6 Responses to Review of “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

  1. sandynawrot says:

    THREE HAIR TUCKS??? IN ONE BOOK??? That is enough to scare me off. I am very jaded so I tend to be very snarky and sarcastic with books like this (even though there are meaty side plots). Unconditional worship of a woman? Not buying it. Not for the long-term. Life is not a Cialis commercial!

  2. When I saw that cover, I just knew that book would have an ear tuck or two. I applaud your research efforts!!

  3. When I saw the cover of this, I thought: Mmmm…this is not her usual kind of book. And then I read your hair tuck database and it all became clear. 🙂

  4. Beth F says:

    Jenny took my comment! I was stuck on the idea of Echo as a name. LOL! And 3 ear tucks!?

  5. stacybuckeye says:

    Maybe you can create a Tuesday quiz for me on hair tucks?

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